(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Hamas has not relented in its efforts to orchestrate terrorist attacks from Gaza against Israel, the US claimed in an official report released Wednesday, despite official calls from the State Department on Hamas to embrace nonviolence, accept Israel’s existence and respect past agreements forged by the Palestinian Authority.
In its annual country-specific reports on terrorist activity, the State Department found that Hamas’s tactics remained consistent with years past: terrorist incidents against Israeli citizens or soldiers, and a lowgrade, consistent barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel; efforts to marginalize political foes and to finance their own work through criminal enterprises; and a “significant quantitative and qualitative” military buildup since Israel’s operation in Gaza five years ago.
“The government of Israel continued to hold Hamas, as the dominant organization in effective control of Gaza, responsible for attacks emanating from Gaza, and Israeli officials pointed to these attacks as proof that Hamas has not abandoned terrorism,” the report stated.
In 2013, “Israel again faced terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank,” it continued, noting a larger strategic threat from Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.
The US report comes just a week after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to form a unity government with Hamas.
The Middle East quartet – the United Nations, European Union, US and Russia – all call on Hamas to abandon terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and respect past PLO agreements. The US Congress goes further: law requires the legislature cut off financial assistance to the Palestinians should Hamas join the government without accepting those three principles.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky already introduced a bill on Tuesday that would cut off US assistance to the PA . But the law suggests Congress continue the aid, roughly $400 million annually, until a power-sharing government is successfully formed. At this point, Abbas has only stated his intent to form one.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, one senior legislator said that Paul’s bill was premature for that reason— but that House members, across the political aisle, have no appetite to continue aid should a unity government come to pass.
Wednesday’s report provided scarce detail on whether the State Department considers Fatah-Hamas reconciliation probable.
Abbas “continued efforts to end the division resulting from Hamas’s control of the Gaza,” it reads. “In February, Hamas permitted the Central Elections Commission to register voters in Gaza for national elections, a precursor for reconciliation. In May, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a timeline to form an interim Palestinian government and hold elections, but implementation stalled because of disagreements between the factions, and there have been no formal talks since then.”
The report also found that Iran continues to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, and proxies elsewhere around the world, despite engaging in direct talks with world powers over its expansive nuclear program.
“Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished” in 2013, the report asserts, “through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hezbollah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region.”